Health system will top Bates' agenda

State senator files for re-election bid

State Sen. Alan Bates filed his candidacy papers for re-election late Thursday, saying he hopes to continue to focus on the transformation of Oregon's health care system.

Bates, D-Medford, said his priority will be to continue to work on a new method of delivering health care to Medicaid patients while opening up a health care exchange, which is Oregon's response to the federal Affordable Care Act.

Dave Dotterrer of Ashland filed his candidacy papers for the Republican nomination for the District 3 Senate seat earlier this week. So far, only Bates and Dotterrer have filed in the race.

Dotterrer, a legislative aid who worked with state Rep. Dennis Richardson and is a retired Marine Corps officer, narrowly lost to Bates in the 2010 election.

Bates, a Medford doctor who served in the U.S. Army and became a senator in 2005, said he's been working on health care reform in the state for the past eight years and hopes voters will get a chance to see that the new programs will work and won't create the kind of chaos some have claimed.

"My expectation is this plan will work reasonably well," he said.

Health care costs have been rising and will continue to rise into the future, requiring some kind of transformation of the system, Bates said.

Oregon will continue to change its health care system as time goes by to bring down costs and provide the kind of care that many Oregonians expect, Bates said.

The programs that are being rolled out will help lower the sharp upward trajectory of health care costs, he said.

"It's going to be one step forward, but it's not the final answer," Bates said. "What we've got now isn't working."

Bates said he realizes that the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is not popular in many circles in his Senate District 3, which includes Medford, Phoenix, Talent, Ashland and Jacksonville.

When the health care exchange opens up, 100,000 Oregonians who currently don't have health insurance will be able to obtain it, he said.

Republicans fought against efforts to create a new health care system in Oregon, Bates said.

While Dotterrer has criticized the Legislature's handling of the budget, Bates said he thinks the state has been able to maintain services through almost a decade of bad economic news.

"We've taken the state through some of the worst financial years the state has ever seen," he said.

He said there are signs of improvement, including increased funding for K-12.

Dotterrer said Friday that he disagreed with Bates that Republicans had opposed the health care overhaul.

Some Republicans were proponents of the community care organizations, he said.

"But there were some Republicans that were very skeptical of it," he said.

Dotterrer said he agrees that the health care system needs overhauling, but said the current plan shows massive financial shortfalls will continue into the future.

"I'm a skeptic about whether we're going to be able to pull this off," he said. "I'm not saying it isn't going to happen, but we're embarking on a program that is a high-risk strategy."

Dotterrer said he endorses the general idea of health care exchanges because they still rely on the insurance market for coverage.

"Republicans are not against that," he said. "They're applauding it."

He said he's more concerned that Democrats haven't placed enough emphasis on creating measurements to gauge whether the programs are successful.

Legislation pushed by Gov. John Kitzhaber and passed by the Legislature required the 17 coordinated care organizations to provide quarterly reports to measure their success and to determine how well they keep down costs.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.



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